Arcata City Council members during a meeting Wednesday favored moving forward with an ordinance that would ban plastic bags, but directed city staff to further research exemptions for businesses occupying under 10,000 square feet.
Under the proposed ordinance, which would cover 90 percent of businesses in Arcata, plastic bags would be prohibited at supermarkets, pharmacies, large stores and convenience food stores, staff indicated. Produce, meat, bulk food bags or bags provided by a pharmacy for prescription medications would be exempt.
Recyclable paper bags would be available for 10 cents. The proposed 10-cent fee for recyclable paper bags would be charged by the retailer and kept by the retailer to defray their cost to provide paper bags, City Attorney Nancy Diamond said.
The goal is to reduce waste, litter and greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the use of reusable bags, a staff report said.
Representatives from Humboldt Baykeeper, Zero Waste Humboldt and the Northcoast Environment Center all spoke in support of the project.
”I'm really excited today to see this on the agenda and moving forward,” said Vanessa Vasquez of Humboldt Baykeeper. “Humboldt Baykeeper's members have long been in support of reducing plastic trash in our coastal communities and this is something our membership is really in support of seeing the city of Arcata adopt.”
Margaret Gainer of Zero Waste Humboldt said she wants to urge the city to move forward with the ordinance.
While all five council members support the ordinance, opinions varied on how comprehensive it should be.
Councilman Michael Winkler said he would like the ordinance be expanded to include prescription, bulk food and produce bags.
”We can make this a lot broader to make it cover a lot more items,” Winkler said.
He also ideally would like restaurants included in the ordinance, but after Diamond said other California cities are in the middle of litigation regarding restaurants being included in similar bans, he was in favor of holding off on a decision.
Councilwoman Susan Ornelas said she thinks it is important to not try to do too much all at once.
”I like to approach change gently,” Ornelas said. “I prefer to move culture in a way that allows people to do it without having to fight against it. So there's a part of me that feels like if this is the model ordinance we're working on I would go with that.”
If passed, the ban would take effect Feb. 1, 2014, according to a staff report.
During Wednesday's meeting, the council postponed a vote on an affordable housing plan for the Mad River Parkway Business Center subdivision after Community Development Director Larry Oetker asked to hold off on the items.
A public hearing on an ordinance that would make the land use and zoning policies of the General Plan 2020 and the Land Use Code effective in coastal areas of Arcata was pushed back after Oetker asked hold off on the hearing.
The council will meet again on Aug. 21.